Revised 2015

Thyroiditis means inflammation of the thyroid gland. There are three main types.

Viral or subacute thyroiditis

  • Caused by: an unidentified viral infection
  • Symptoms: enlarged, usually very painful thyroid gland, flu-like symptoms, hyperthyroidism sometimes followed by hypothyroidism
  • Diagnosis: physical examination and blood tests
  • Treatment: steroids in severe cases, anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. ibuprofen) although in mild cases no treatment may be necessary
  • Outcome: usually complete recovery within a few months; rarely levothyroxine is given if the hypothyroidism is permanent

Postpartum thyroiditis

  • Occurs: usually in the first six months after childbirth
  • Symptoms: swollen thyroid gland, not usually painful, hyperthyroidism sometimes followed by hypothyroidism
  • Diagnosis: physical examination and blood tests
  • Treatment: beta blockers, if necessary, during the hyperthyroid phase, levothyroxine during the hypothyroid phase
  • Outcome: usually complete recovery within a few months; otherwise levothyroxine is given if the hypothyroidism is permanent (estimated 1 in 5-10). It often returns in subsequent pregnancies; you should therefore be tested after any further pregnancies

Autoimmune thyroiditis

  • Caused by: an autoimmune process which can be either temporary due to the thyroid gland releasing stored thyroid hormone (silent thyroiditis) which is usually followed by recovery to normal function or permanent resulting in loss of thyroid hormone production (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis)
  • Symptoms: hyperthyroidism followed by hypothyroidism and sometimes an enlarged thyroid (goitre) if a silent thyroiditis or hypothyroidism if Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Diagnosis: blood tests
  • Treatment: levothyroxine for life

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism

  • General tiredness
  • Increased awareness of the cold
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Hoarse voice
  • Muscle weakness
  • A small increase in weight
  • Slow speech, movements and thoughts
  • Low mood or depression

Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism

  • Weight loss despite an increased appetite
  • Palpitations
  • Sweating and heat intolerance
  • Tiredness
  • Nervousness and irritability
  • Shakiness
  • A rapid pulse
  • Mood swings or aggressive behaviour

It is well recognised that thyroid problems often run in families and if family members are unwell they should be encouraged to discuss with their own GP whether thyroid testing is warranted.

If you have questions or concerns about your thyroid disorder, you should talk to your doctor or specialist as they will be best placed to advise you. You may also contact the British Thyroid Foundation for further information and support, or if you have any comments about the information contained in this leaflet.

The British Thyroid Foundation

www.btf-thyroid.org
The British Thyroid Foundation is a registered charity: England and Wales No 1006391, Scotland SC046037

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Endorsed by:

The British Thyroid Association - medical professionals encouraging the highest standards in patient care and research
www.british-thyroid-association.org

The British Association of Endocrine and Thyroid Surgeons - the representative body of British surgeons who have a specialist interest in surgery of the endocrine glands (thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal)
www.baets.org.uk

First issued: 2008
Revised: 2011, 2015
Our literature is reviewed every two years and revised if necessary.
© 2015 BRITISH THYROID FOUNDATION

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